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Karina Gould, Minister of International Development holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Dec. 10, 2020.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The federal government will provide $49.5-million to assist Syrian refugees who are internally displaced as well as those living in neighbouring Jordan and Lebanon, as the civil war enters its 11th year.

International Development Minister Karina Gould made the pledge on Tuesday at the Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region, through a prerecorded video.

“It’s going to people who have been facing unbelievable hardship over the past decade,” Ms. Gould said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

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The funding will be distributed among agencies, Ms. Gould said, such as the United Nations World Food Programme, the United Nations refugee agency, and non-governmental organizations including those that operate within Syria. The money will go toward basic health services, water, sanitation and to help with food security, she said.

Life has become harder than ever for displaced Syrians, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which says 13.4 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance within the country, 6.7 million are internally displaced and 6.6 million Syrian refugees are living in other countries, with most living near Syria.

Under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief co-ordinator Mark Lowcock tweeted that the international community pledged US$4.4-billion in an effort to respond to the worsening humanitarian and economic crisis in Syria and to help neighbouring countries sheltering refugees. The global pledges fell short of the UN’s goal of US$10-billion. Last year, the conference raised US$7.7-billion.

Jan Egeland, secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said the funding pledged Tuesday is urgently needed, but pointed out that his organization was disappointed funding had dropped.

“The international community has failed to exert its influence to stop Syria’s warring parties from using civilians as pawns on a chessboard. Stepping up the aid is the least they can do to help Syrians survive and recover,” he added.

At last year’s conference, Ottawa pledged $281-million for 2021, and Tuesday’s announcement is in addition to that number, bringing the total to about $330-million.

Rema Jamous Imseis, the UN refugee agency’s representative to Canada, welcomed Ottawa’s contribution.

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“It comes at a critical time for the millions of Syrian women, men and children facing a double emergency of decade-long displacement and harsh COVID-19 economic impacts,” she said.

Peter Maurer, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, told the conference that he had just returned from Damascus, the bombed streets of Darayya and al-Hol camp in northeast Syria.

“The last decade of violence and brutality has ripped the hearts out of the Syrian people,” he said, adding the future will be bleak unless the international community changes its approach.

Mr. Mauer said at al-Hol, women and children are living in squalor. He said 40,000 children are living in that camp, calling it “a child protection crisis on a massive scale.” He said it is a scandal that the international community is allowing it to continue.

Canada has refused to repatriate its citizens who are detained in both al-Hol and Roj in northeastern Syria. Ottawa has only allowed two young children to return to Canada, and both had family members help them get here.

Ms. Gould said the only solution to the Syrian conflict is a political resolution, adding that is the only way to end the “awful humanitarian catastrophe.”

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With a report from the Associated Press.

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